Arch Enemy, "Wages Of Sin"
By now you think you can know what to expect from an Arch Enemy release. With the band's fourth studio release, thinking this way will leave you oh so very wrong. On Wages of Sin, the band has relieved Johan Liiva of vocal duties and replaced him with the lovely Angela Gossow. Yes HER name is Angela, and she's no sugar n' spice sweetie. This metal babe bellows with the best of them in true to bullets, blood and leather form, adding a new level of aggression to Arch Enemy's already impressive sound. In fact, the vocals on this album are probably the best, most powerful and dynamic I've heard since Tompa Lindberg opened his mouth for Slaughter of the Soul. Songs like "Savage Messiah," "Heart of Darkness" and the absolutely sinister "First Deadly Sin" have the band flexing its burly biceps like they've never done before thanks to better song writing, more choices in speed, and of course Angie's venomous delivery.
It's true, Wages of Sin just so happens to have the best-penned work that Arch Enemy has to show so far. The song structures and especially the riffs are as coherent humanly imaginable. "Enemy Within" "Burning Angel" and "Ravenous" show particular care in songwriting and the resultant melodies are firmly rooted in the band's past sensibilities though fresh, razor sharp and destructive. "Behind the Smile" is a bit more melancholy and slow, resembling a more thorough version of "Burning Bridges," "Dead Bury their Dead" plays it a little bit safe but still rocks, "Snow Bound" is the requisite instrumental, and "Shadows and Dust" is a shameless booty-shaker.
I find only two faults with Wages of Sin. The first is that Arch Enemy has always been a band to impress with leads, and on this disc, the circus-stunt guitar work has been toned down some. Though it is really nice to hear the whole song and focus more on the composition, I'd like to have tracks like "Cosmic Retribution" (the cut from Black Earth with the inhuman leads) on this album. Second, the band plays so much with catchy melody lines that some of them become cheesy and overly happy. The track "Web of Lies" falls flat on its face like earlier songs "Let the Killing Begin" and "Demonic Science" (from Stigmata and Burning Bridges respectively) because of this. Arch Enemy almost ruined "Shadows and Dust" this way as well, but exercised just enough moderation to save it.
In all, Wages of Sin is a magnificent disc where 10 of the 11 songs are huge successes. Arch Enemy has really outdone itself this time by focusing more on the heart of the songs, and the addition of Angela to the camp is a very welcome blessing. Keep on roaring, baby!
Note: US version comes with a bonus disc full of rarities and goodies.